Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rabbenu Peter revisited; also introducing Rabbi Patrick (with some meanderings down Y.H. Schorr Street).

Hirhurim reviewed the new issue of Meorot, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah's adaptation of the former Edah Journal. In the comments someone opined that in light of the inclusion of articles signed by names like Rabbis Scott and Todd Berman the journal shoots itself in the foot:

Merely with names like this, you have already lost the interst of most orthodox Jews. "Scott"? And "Todd"? For a RABBI??

It's amazing how some MO Jews dont get this. Many of them also let their clean-shaven rebbeim walk around wearng Jeans. They tell you these things, like names, are mere chitzoniyos. WRONG. A community expects more from tis teachers than it does from ballei battim. I know so many people who agree with so much of MO, including its program of good education and zionism, but dont send their kids there because of this fundamental flaw. (They have disagreements over the mingling of the sexes too, but that's for another time.)

Thus raising the issue of Jewish names, or what is a Jewish name? In the comments you get your usual assortment of Pappas and Hunas in reply. Finally someone mentioned the Tosaphist Rabbi Peter, about whose name I had posted here.

The original commenter who [asserted, pointed out] that names like Todd just don't work for an Orthodox rabbi countered that scholarship says his name was not actually the Christian "Peter." I assume he was referring to H.J. Zimmel's analysis of the name in the 1 1957 article "Rabbi Peter the Tosaphist" in the Jewish Quarterly Review, which is what my post was about.

So I countered that I'm not so convinced. Zimmels theorized that the name פטר isn't Peter. It's more likely to have been Pater, but his guess -- while educated -- isn't exactly petra-solid (pun intended).

Furthermore, even if he was really Rabbi Abba nee Pater we've still got to explain why he is named Pater in the Hebrew glosses on the side of the Gemara. I've never seen the Ramban referred to by his Catalan name Rabbenu Bonastruc in Hebrew writings!

Interestingly enough, the original commenter later wrote: "Note - I specifically mentioned the names Scott and Todd. I would have no problem with a name like David or Daniel or even Bernard, names that have a Jewish tradition. But Scott and Todd? No way."

In any case, whatever the name was it's obvious that Rabbenu פטר ought to be Exhibit A in any discussion of names for Jews (or rabbis!).

Thus, we find the following in a late 19th century book about Rumanian Jewish emigration to America:

While פטר seems obviously not to be a Jewish name, the interpretation of it being Peter is not recent. Here's a reference to the martyred rabbi, written in 1817:

(You can read about his martyrdom in the Second Crusade here, in a translation of the chronicle דברי הימים למלכי צרפת ובית אוטאמאן התוגר:

Of course, in the original Hebrew it is ר' פטר.

The author of the above chronicle was born in 1496 in Avignon, his parents having been Spanish Jews expelled in 1492.

Here is the entry on Rabbi Peter in Cassel's קורא הדורות:

Zimmels closed his short article with the following hypothesis:

I am now about to give some good testimony in favor of Zimmels's interpretation.

In the 16th century an anonymous Englishman produced a translation of Rabbi Joseph's chronicle. The manuscript is sitting on my shelf in my living room. Just kidding, it's in the British Museum, or whatever they're calling the library this century.

It looks something like this:

Below is the translation of the passage regarding Rabbenu פטר: (click it to see an enlarged, readable version):


Of course this doesn't actually tell us how the name was pronounced in the 12th century, when Rabbi Peter lived. This 16th century translator could no more have known it than me (or for that matter, the chronicler R. Yoseph ha-Kohen the Sephardi). I assume, however, that reading ר' פטר in Hebrew it simply never dawned on him that the Jews would have a rabbi named Peter.

Moving onto Rabbi Patrick. Writing in The Menorah Volume 6. (1889) American Reform Rabbi Bernard Felsenthal produced an article of that name.

Let us begin with his ending:

Bernard Felsenthal is an interesting person, most especially to me because of his relationship with Yehoshua Heschel Schorr (also known as Osias H. Schorr, or Yehash). Schorr was the wealthy publisher of the vanity Haskalah periodical החלוץ (by "vanity" I don't mean to say that it was empty of content, only that it was primarily a vehicle for disseminating his own writings, some of which were highly polemical, and it was made possible by his [inherited] wealth). Schorr was the 19th Galician Haskalah bogeyman. He was not a "nice guy." He was known for being miserly, caustic and offensive. However, according to legend his one-time teacher Rabbi Shlomo Kluger actually said of him "Leave Heschele Schorr alone. He holds the [Talmud] Bavli in one hand and the Yerushalmi in the other," which is not in any way an endorsement of the man or his kind of scholarship on the part of RSK. (Unfortunately I was unable to trace the source of this reported statement, but Ezra Spicehandler gives it in a footnote in one of his HUCA articles on Schorr. He neglected to give a source. Since I am 99.99% sure that he didn't invent it, it's possible that it was simply one of those legendary things which got passed down for three generations. Since obviously R. Kluger never wrote this, I'm not sure what good a "source" would be anyway.

By the way, Schorr was a pupil of R. Kluger alongside his primary early collaborator in החלוץ, Abraham Krochmal, who was Nachman Krochmal's son. Given that the younger Krochmal was born in 1818, even if he was only 13 or 14 at the time, this means that he was studying under R. Shlomo Kluger in the early 1830s. Nachman Krochmal was already quite famous, and furthermore, already had a heretical reputation. In fact, the notorious Karaite correspondence scandal occurred 15 years earlier. Below is Zimberg's account of the scandal:

In any case, R. Shlomo Kluger having Abraham Krochmal as a teenaged talmid certainly says nothing about R. Kuger's attitude toward Karaism or Maskilim, but it probably does show something about Nachman Krochmal himself (where his heart lay and what his intentions were). In addition, it is difficult to see how a contemporary equivalent to R. Shlomo Kluger would teach a contemporary equivalent to Nachman Krochmal's son, so long as the son was not actually rebelling against his father.

Below we see an example of Schorr's audacious scholarship. Although Jewish Bible scholars had been proposing textual emendations of the Hebrew Bible for decades, the five books of the Torah remained taboo. Yahash respected no such taboo, emending the 5th word of the Torah:

Another kind of example of the kind of scholarship he practiced is his article on tefillin in the 5th volume of החלוץ. While a very scholarly, critical article, which analyzed all sorts of sources on tefillin, the point of the article was to demonstrate that tefillin are not meant by os and totafos in the Torah, and they're in fact from the Second Temple period. Not only were they not commanded by the Torah, but even in the Second Temple period and later few but the most pious wore them. In addition, he broke another taboo in that he unhesitatingly attacked Talmudic sages.

Incidentally, David Weiss-Halivni has this to say about Yahash: "[he] would have been most scientifically reliable were it not for his zeal to prove the Rabbis of the talmud wrong, making almost deliberate mistakes -- in Hechalutz book 7, p. 149 he almost admits this." Of course, all this really means is: use with caution, as you must in any case do with the analyses and theories of anyone. You just have to be more careful with a more polemical sort of character.

He featured in all sorts of Galician legends and jokes from the 19th century. One story has it that after his only son died, who had been a promising young scholar, he was inconsolable. Eventually he got a little pet dog that he enjoyed holding in his lap. One time Schorr showed the dog to a Chassid, asking him what he thought of his kaddishl (i.e, the dog). The Chassid replied, more than I think of your father's kaddishl! (i.e., you)

He was also a satirist. In one such work, "Taryag," he wrote of an encounter between himself and the amora Rav Simlai (the saying that there are 613, or "taryag" mitzvos is attributed to Rav Simlai). Schorr complains about the rabbinic writings from after Rav Simlai, such as the Talmud and works of the Rishonim. Rav Simlai, being a 4th century amora, is shocked. He tells Schorr that he didn't know there were books besides the Torah, Nevi'im and Kesuvim -- it isn't permitted to write the tradition, which must be passed on orally, in order so that the law can be somewhat flexible responding to the circumstance of time and place (this teaching he adopted from Shadal). Of course, there were megillas setarim, but those were meant to be ephemeral. So what are these big books? Schorr then goes on to shock him even further by quoting rulings of Abbaye and Rava in the Talmud Bavli. For example, they said (Shabbos 67a) "Whatever is used as a remedy is not [forbidden] on account of the ways of the Amorite." That is, so long as it is medicinal, anything superstitious is not forbidden. Rav Simlai is flabbergasted, for it contradicts the explicit Mishnah, "One may go out [on the Sabbath] with a Hargol's egg, a fox's tooth, and a nail from [the crucifix] of an impaled convict as a prophylactic. This is Rabbi Meir's view, but the Sages forbid this even on weekdays on account of "the ways of the Amorite." In short, "Taryag" sets up a scenario where an Eretz Yisrael amora is amazed and dismayed by the Talmud Bavli and the turn Judaism has taken since his time, which he cannot reconcile with the Torah he knows. While not necessarily a bad point, of course Schorr is neither a fan of the Judaism of Rav Simlai, nor particularly bound by the chumros of the chachamim, but it helps make his point.

Despite all this, while he could not possibly be passed off as pious by any Orthodox (or Rabbinic) definition, he was not an irreligious character. In fact, he seems to have exhibited a common sign of 19th century Reformers, namely a Karaitic tendency toward the Bible, and away from the Oral Law. Below is a translation from this work:

In my view we should not doubt the sincerity of this remark. He had no one to impress, and in fact loved to provoke. If he had felt otherwise he no doubt would have delighted in tearing apart and publicly disbelieving in the Torah, too.

Yahash had been a beloved correspondent of Shadal's since the age of 14. Some of Shadal's most interesting ruminations on textual emendation were prompted by Schorr's suggestions. In one such letter, Shadal dismisses his suggestions, and also more or less explains his own method for suggesting emendations. The letter is full of admonishment on the need for very vast knowledge of the Bible, language, grammar, commentaries and extraordinary diligence (spending days on a difficult word), and the importance of caution and conservatism. Which, of course, Shadal had. Now, while I write that a little mischievously because the intelligent reader knows full well how silly and conceited it comes across to basically say "Only I have the tools to do this," it is still true that he did possess the criteria which he claimed was necessary before proposing an emendation, from the knowledge to the diligence.

Heinrich Graetz exchanged some correspondence and even spent some time with Shadal in Padua. Graetz learned that at that point (the 1850s) Shadal had basically rued the day he had publicized his Bible emendations, although he stood by them 100%. In fact, looked at over the course of his life, nearly all of his emendations were the product of his earlier exegesis. At that later stage he viewed textual criticism that did not meet his own standard (i.e., almost all of it) as a product of irreverence toward the Bible, and capable of destroying the Bible itself. Feeling that this style of scholarship had gone totally amok, his later exegesis would seek to defend the Masoretic text. This caused the almost ridiculous situation where, on the one hand, he upheld and defended his own emendations, but tried to stem the tide of new emendations, no longer suggesting them himself, and disputing new ones.

Here is an example of Shadal's attitude toward text criticism of Nach (in a letter sent to Raphael Kirchheim in 1850 or so; it is printed on pg. 106 of K.'s Karme Shomron):

Schorr was very beloved to Shadal, although he knew full well that the younger man was not very pious (something which greatly distressed him). He tried to be what he thought was a good influence on him. On one occasion he wrote Schorr asking him not to try to publish a certain article the younger man had written, which was full of errors of the religious kind. Shadal promised that he would lovingly and privately explain to him in detail why he was mistaken. However, if he had the article published then he would have no choice but to respond stridently in public in the same manner. Schorr in turn loved his master, and even gave badly needed financial support at times (having observed Shadal's poverty personally, Graetz writes that all of Shadal's accomplishments were all the more to his credit, not only enduring poverty, but enduring it in Italy, where there was great wealth). On one occasion Shadal outbid Schorr's brother on a singular manuscript, the Diwan of Rabbi Yehudah ha-Levy (you, the reader, would not be the first to notice that the poverty-stricken Shadal spent whatever money he had on rare manuscripts). Both because of his esteem for Schorr and also to smooth over any wounded feelings on the part of his brother, he dedicated his edition of the Diwan to him on the occasion of his marriage, and even named the book בתולת בת יהודה, after his new wife (punning, of course, on the name of R. Yehudah ha-Levi himself):

As you can see, with this marriage Schorr became a great-grandson-in-law of the Nodah Beyehuda.

Schorr's views became more impious and more public. Eventually Shadal, reacting to what was for him a particularly offensive issue of החלוץ, lost contact with his disciple, lamenting that the periodical had become an עגל (punning on the name שור), and he also fretted that he had wasted 20 years in corresponding with him!

Yahash had disciples of his own, one of whom was Bernard Felsenthal (although I'm not sure if they ever met). Not only was he a disciple, but here in America he tried to turn people onto Schorr as much as he could. Some of Felsenthal's letters to him were printed by Ezra Spicehandler and in an article called "Bernard Felsenthal's Letters to Osias Schorr" in a volume called Essays in American Jewish history.

Below is a reviews of החלוץ by Felsenthal in the Menorah 3 1887:

Now that was a tangent!

Below is Rabbi Bernard Felsenthal's article Rabbi Patrick in the Menorah, 1889:
While you should read it, I'm sure some won't (although they also won't have reached this point either). So I'll abstract it:

He contends that there was a rabbi of the Talmud and Midrash named Patrick. Knowing how strange this must sound, he satirizes three kinds of Jews of his time and how they would react. "Hubert Falkenstein," a hypothetical German Jew, would reply that in Berlin where he is from there are 60,000 Jews, and no Patrick among them. Furthermore, he's travelled all over Europe, read Graetz's 11 volume History of the Jews, and is certain there never was a Rabbi Patrick. The other Jews, "Berish Warshawshik," is a "Lituak," and he went to the yeshiva of Wolosin (Volozhin) and learned the whole Talmud over and over again, and never saw a Rabbi Patrick. Next is a Galicianer, "Zalman Teitelbaum," who says that he never knew there were people named Patrick until he was 40 years old and came to America! None of these characters subsequently walk into a bar, nor do they encounter a rabbi or a priest.

Felsenthal then goes on to demonstrate what he believes. He cites no less than 5 rabbinic sources which mention רבי פטרוקי or אפטרוקי. He then gives a learned dissertation on the Aleph prostheticum, explaining the presence of superfluous alephs at the beginning of Aramaic words. The sharp Volozhiner counters that the ancient form of the name was "Patricius." So how could the c be rendered with ק? Felsenthal then explains correctly that in Greek and Latin there was only the hard sound. Patricius was, in fact, Patrikivs. He then goes on to cite a newly published Geonic responsum from Rav Saadya regarding a man named Patrick. Which raises a question: why would a Jew living in the Levant have such a European name as Patrick? I am telling you, you cannot make this stuff up. So he answers that in those days there was much contact between Jews, East and West . . . And he even cites another Geonic responsum mentioning their Greek pupils (the point being, of course, that they hailed from a Byzantine land).

Felsenthal then admits that he actually disagrees with Schorr here. Schorr, in He-halutz 10, interprets פטרוקי and אפטרוקי as not being real names, but cognomens. Schorr then delved into Greeek to try to show the etymology of the term. Truth be told, I have a hunch that Felsenthal's bekius was less the cause of his discovery of Rabbi Patrick and more his perusal of Ha-halutz (and therefore of Schorr's bekius). I also have a hunch that being an American rabbi of the 19th century, Felsenthal tended to see "Patrick," while Schorr, being a Galician maskil tended not to, but I digress. Still, he gives a nice illustration of why he disagreed with Schorr, whom he calls here "undoubtedly one of the greatest Talmudical scholars of our age" who has a "master mind."The illustration is that suppose in 2000 years a historian shows that in 19th century America there were men called things like "Rail splitter," but that "Rail splitter" was not the name of such men. He would be correct. But suppose then he extends the idea too far, and suggests that the reason why a certain 19th century American general was called Grant is because he granted honorable terms of surrended to General Lee. This would be an error, and F. maintains that Schorr committed just such an error. He then spends 6 more pages defending pedantry, and doing so quite humorously. You can't make this stuff up!

In all, it's a very, very entertaining article. It shows that Felsenthal didn't take himself too seriously and had a nice wit, but ironically it also shows that Felsenthal took himself more seriously than I think he realized -- just like me, most likely.


  1. Fred, little secret - I was the anonymous commenter re Scott and Todd that spurred your post!

    Rabbi Felsenthal is interested in Rabbi Patrick, but what about Rabbi Frank? He's mentioned multipled times in shas, e.g., Shabbos 14a.

    Wink and gunpoint.


  2. I would very much like to have the bibliographic info for that British Library manuscript. Please?



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